Editor's Note: Thomas Williams III served as a Lancaster then Lancaster-Lebanon Council district executive from 1968-76, and as a volunteer at J. Edward Mack Scout Reservation every summer season from 1999-2015. Among the collectibles displayed in his office are Klondike Derby patches from 1971-74. The event grew to an annual activity for the Pennsylvania Dutch Council, with the three districts "sledding" at Mack on separate weekends in January. Total attendance is 2018 was 552 youth and 260 adults. Dates in 2019 are Jan. 11-13, 18-21 and 25-27. The dates and information for this history are from the memory of Tom Williams.
Lancaster County never had a District winter event prior to 1970. Everyone seemed to be tentative to give a winter event a try (at Mack Scout Reservation, which held its first camping season in 1969).
In the summer of 1969 I thought I would give a winter event a try. I contacted one of my DE friends at Keystone Area Council.
I knew he had winter events and I asked him for some info on a winter event. He sent me his booklet on what he called a Klondike Derby, along with the detailed plans for a sled and the types of Scout skills involved in each town.
My district camping chairman (Ed Mankowski), jumped on this idea with gusto. He recruited some guys from Alcoa and formed a Klondike Derby Committee.
On paper and committee meetings made things looked fantastic, but you cannot predict the weather.
The week prior to the event (in January 1970) it snowed, snowed and snowed.
Ed said he was lighting candles to have snow for the event.
I say, “Ed, stop lighting candles.”
Checking on Thursday with (camp Ranger) Dave Strayer, Dave said, “I don’t know how we can have a winter event I can’t even plow the camp open. There is a 10-foot drift at the entrance to camp!”
We now have a challenge ... we were indeed fortunate to have a neighbor (Claude Mace) across Route 501. He volunteered his time and his front-end loader ... He opened up the road to the garage and Dave’s house and the parking lot where the pole barn is now located and the space on the side which was a parking lot.
I had some buddies who owned snowmobiles. They came up as volunteers with their snowmobiles.
We needed snowmobiles to get the mayors to their towns and get people to the kitchen to make treats and gallons of hot chocolate.
The scouts had a ball, the adults froze, but all in all we had a great winter experience.
I hope this gives you an idea what happened at the first Klondike!